I’ve been encouraging artists to join artist organizations for my entire career, but the truth is that not all organizations are created equal.
And before you go thinking that you should start your own, let me say this: the world does not need more artist organizations. The world needs better artist organizations – organizations with powerful visions and commitment to serving their artists.
To be clear, I’m not talking about organizations for hobbyists. Those serve a separate and noble purpose, which is fodder for another article.
When you are trying to earn money from your art … when you aim for professional status … you need a higher level of support.
I think this is why my courses and consulting have been so successful—because it fills a void. And we support artist learning and growth inside the Art Biz Connection community.
Healthy organizations aren’t my competition. We’re all here to elevate the status of artists while helping you lead healthy, productive lives.
I will always steer my artist-clients to strong artist organizations that I know can benefit them.
With that said, here are some thoughts that might help you decide whether or not an organization is right for you.
Profile of a Healthy Artist Organization
Structure & Leadership
The organization has written guidelines, policies, and procedures – and follows them. You know know what is expected of you and what you can expect from the organization.
The organization plays a valuable role within the larger art community. In other words, it’s not an island operating by itself.
Meetings at a healthy artist organization are well run. They begin and end on time and the conversation is at a high level. You are energized when you leave.
All members have a sense of ownership. You do what you can to help the organization succeed. In turn, the organization communicates regularly with you, the members.
You feel supported by other members, who realize you’re in it to hold each other up rather than to compete with one another.
You connect with artists that you trust to critique your work, and you’re inspired by the accomplishments of your fellow members.
You’re pleased to have your art represented on the organization’s website along with other members. It’s attractive and updated.
Education & Opportunities
When you are a member of a healthy organization, you are proud to show work alongside the other members. The organization coordinates group shows that are professional from start to finish.
You have access to special programs that are run by respected instructors.
You pick up tips from members that help you with new technology, marketing, teaching, and exhibiting.
Now for the dark side.
Profile of a Dysfunctional Organization
Structure & Leadership
You are always the leader and are not learning or growing. The organization would fall apart without you.
Other members (maybe even you) aren’t pulling their weight. If you aren’t pulling your weight, it says something about your commitment to the group.
The organization doesn’t fulfill its obligations to members, nor does it follow its own guidelines and policies.
The organization is disconnected from the larger community – locally or nationally.
Other members don’t understand the value of professionalism.
Other members are negative, whiny, or excuse-makers. Honestly, it just takes one to ruin it for everyone else.
Members aren’t supporting one another. In fact, they see one another as competition.
Meetings seem like a waste of time. You feel deflated, frustrated, or icky when you leave your group meeting.
Do You Keep Your Membership?
When considering whether or not to join or maintain your membership in an organization, your primary responsibility is to yourself, your art, and your future.
The organization is either lifting you up or keeping you in a holding pattern. You’re either growing or stagnating.
If you’re part of a dysfunctional group … if you’re not growing as a result of your membership … drop out. Say, “Alyson made me do it.” I’m happy to take the heat.
Life is too short for all of the frustrations that come with a group that’s a bad fit. You have much bigger mountains to climb.
We have a community of artists waiting to support you in the Art Biz Connection.